Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Forest land conceded to private firm


via CAAI

Wednesday, 02 March 2011 15:01 May Titthara

Prime Minister Hun Sen has authorised the felling of about 9,000 hectares of protected forestland in Ratanakkiri’s Vereak Chey National Park by a private company for a new rubber plantation.

A sub-decree signed by Hun Sen on February 15 stated that rights to clear-cut part of the protected forest area would be granted to the Srun Sovannaphoum Investment Co Ltd to plant rubber as part of a new special economic zone in Ratanakkiri province.

Ratanakkiri provincial governor Pav Hamphan said yesterday that he was not aware of the sub-decree granting development of a portion of the national park, which consists of about 332,500 total hectares of forest land.

He stressed, however, that the park is a private area and no villagers would be affected by the concession.

“If the government grants an economic land concession to this private company, it is good because that area is uninhabited, so when the company comes to invest they will also construct a road,” he said.

The concession was signed only days after an address by Prime Minister Hum Sen in which he told a group of graduating students that the government would strive to protect its natural forest land against overdevelopment of rubber plantations.

“Rubber is at a good price, but it is [wrong] for us to cut down the high trees to plant rubber,” Hun Sen said.

“We can protect the forest to help reduce climate change.”

Pen Bonnar, provincial coordinator for the local rights group Adhoc, said yesterday that the government has denounced the felling of protected forestland for rubber plantations in the past, which is contradictory to what they are doing now.

“Cutting some part of Vereak Chey National Park may not affect villagers, but it seriously affects the forest and this province will lose even more forest land,” he said.

Chou Sopheak, director of Vereak Chey National Park, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Police Blotter: 2 Mar 2011


via CAAI

Wednesday, 02 March 2011 15:01 Sen David

Drunken axe assault slays man at card game
Memot district police in Kampong Cham province are searching for a suspect accused of hacking a 31-year-old man to death on Sunday night. According to police, the victim and his neighbours were drinking alcohol and playing cards for fun, when another neighbour led an unprovoked attack against the victim, striking him four times in the head with an axe and killing him instantly. The suspect escaped from the scene and the motive for the attack is unknown.
RASMEY KAMPUCHEA

Sugar-cane thief kills self out of shame
THE body of an 18-year-old was found on Sunday after he committed suicide in Kampong Speu’s Phnom Sruoch district. Police said the dead man, along with a few other friends, stole a lot of cane sugar plants from a field to eat on Saturday. The owner of the cane plants caught the friends one by one and the victim was so afraid that he would be arrested and scolded by his mother that he killed himself.
KOH SANTEPHEAP

Armed party goer arrested by police
TAKEO provincial police sent a 26-year-old man to court on Monday, after he was accused of possessing an illegal weapon at a house-warming party on Friday night in Bati district. Police arrested the suspect for questioning after a 54-year-old villager reported to police that he saw a gun strapped to the suspect’s waist. The suspect confessed that he had bought the gun for protection but had never used it to commit any crimes.
KOH SANTEPHEAP

Suspect in party attack pleads innocence
ANG SNUOL district police in Kandal province sent a 22-year-old man to provincial court on Monday on suspicion of injuring three men at a party. Witnesses said the suspect and his two friends assaulted three victims in an argument at the party, and they managed to detain one of them and turn him over to police. The suspect claimed that he was not the one who had attacked the victims and that his friends were to blame, so police are now searching for the three other suspects.
KOH SANTEPHEAP

Fair-weather friend steals motorbike
A 24-YEAR-OLD man filed a complaint to Kandal provincial police on Friday, accusing a 25-year-old friend of cheating him out of his motorbike in Kandal province’s Takhmao town. He claimed that his friend asked him to go for a drive on his motorbike because he did not have one and in exchange he would pay for petrol. They stopped to purchase fuel and the suspect asked him to wait while he drove off on the victim’s motorbike to go get money but he never came back.
KOH SANTEPHEAP

The Phnom Penh Post News in Brief


via CAAI

Drug traffickers charged in Stung Treng

Wednesday, 02 March 2011 15:01 Buth Reaksmey Kongkea

Two men were charged with drug trafficking yesterday in Stung Treng, according to Major Duong Vichet, deputy chief of the Stung Treng Military Police. Sovann Savath, 45, and Bun Rasmey, 17, were arrested on Monday in the Sam Ang village of Sam Ang commune in Thala Barivat district. Police arrested them while they were driving a motorbike carrying more than 30,000 metham-phetamine pills from the Cambodian-Lao border to Stung Treng province.

Man charged in rape of underage girl

Wednesday, 02 March 2011 15:01 Sen David

An 18-year-old man was charged with raping a 3-year-old girl in Takeo’s Bati district on Monday, according to Soun Pun, deputy provincial police chief. He said the suspect, Loch Rathany, broke down in tears and admitted to committing the rape to police, which occurred while the victim’s grandmother went to a market to buy food on February 22. Ung Tha Nann, Adhoc’s provincial coordinator, said that his organisation will investigate the case independently.

Air fares to include departure charge


via CAAI

Wednesday, 02 March 2011 15:01 Ellie Dyer

The charge levied on air passengers leaving Cambodia will be incorporated into ticket prices for those flying on or after April 1.

Norinda Khek, communications and marketing manager of airport management company Société Concessionnaire des Aéroports, said yesterday that the move was being made to “ease and speed-up processes at our airports”.

The passenger service charge is set at US$25 for adult foreigners and $13 for foreign children aged between two and 12. Cambodians are charged $18 and $10 respectively.

The charge included with tickets will be at foreigner rates, with Cambodians entitled to a refund of the difference at airports.

Passengers who booked flights on or after January 21 with the intention of flying in April or beyond have already had the fee included in their fares. It is also included in all domestic fares and Jetstar flights to Singapore.

All passengers flying before April 1 and those have not paid as part of their tickets must settle the fee at airports' counters.

A traveller who has been charged at booking but has changed plans to fly before April 1 is entitled to a refund to avoid being charged twice. The levy is a source of revenue for SCA and includes a security charge and value added tax .

Price pump at petrol stations


Photo by: Pha Lina
Petrol and diesel prices are displayed at a petrol station on Norodom Boulevard, Phnom Penh, yesterday. Prices have risen by 2 percent over the last week.

via CAAI

Wednesday, 02 March 2011 15:00 May Kunmakara

The price of premium petrol has risen by 2 percent over the last week at five major petrol stations in Phnom Penh, with industry players pointing to unrest Libya as a cause.

Data recorded by the Trade Promotion Department at the Commerce Ministry yesterday showed that a litre of gold petrol now sells at around 5,100 riel (US$1.26), up 2 percent from 5,000 riel a litre last week. At the beginning of the year, the price lay at around 4,300 riel per litre.

Regular petrol has increased 2.1 percent over the last week to 4,800 riel a litre.

The rises come after international oil prices soared, as concerns over the political chaos in oil-producing nations such as Libya mounted.

Riots from Morocco to Bahrain have already toppled leaders in Tunisia and Egypt and there have been protests in Yemen, to the south of Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil producer. Fighting in Libya may have shut as much as 850,000 barrels a day of output, according to the International Energy Agency.

Manager at Thailand’s Petroleum PTT, Bin May Mialia, said yesterday that price rises at the capital’s pumps were an effect of the chaos.

“Countries in the Middle East, which hold 80 percent of petroleum distributed in the world market, are now facing a political downturn, so they don’t want to make exports,” he said.

“It will be very difficult to import from them. Vietnam also has difficulty importing. If we depend on our regional suppliers – Malaysia and Indonesia – it is not enough.”

Stephane Dio, managing director of Total in Cambodia, agreed that international prices had been affected by the ongoing unrest in Libya.

“As Cambodia has no refinery in operation and imports all of its oil products from other countries, pump prices in Cambodia reflect international oil products and the cost of bringing these products to Cambodia,” he wrote.

He said that while Total endeavoured to limit the impact of international oil prices increases on Cambodian customers, ongoing problems in the region around Libya could results in further pump increases.

“The complexity of world oil markets and the multitude of factors affecting it make it almost impossible even for seasoned experts to make a valid forecast,” said Stephane Dio.

“However, considering the current situation, one might assume that there will be further tensions on the oil product market in the near future, leading to higher prices.”

Brent crude for April settlement climbed 33 cents, or 0.3 percent, to US$112.13 a barrel on the ICE Futures Europe exchange yesterday morning. Prices ended February 11 percent higher.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BLOOMBERG

First Car Factory aims to establish new brand


Photo by: Chun Sohpal
A man works on a vehicle on the production line at the Khmer First Car Factory, located in Dangkor district, Phnom Penh, yesterday.

via CAAI

Wednesday, 02 March 2011 15:00 Chun Sophal and Sieam Bunthy

Cambodia's Khmer First Car Factory has sold 60 vehicles on the domestic market since it began sales last month, according to marketing manager Liu Dai Fu.

The US$15 million joint venture between Cambodian shareholders and Chinese car company Beijing Automobile Works assembles vehicles in Phnom Penh from parts imported from China, he said yesterday. It aims to sell 1,000 of its three BAW models in Cambodia year, he said, adding brand recognition was currently a challenge.

“At the present time, our car sales are still having difficulty competing with cars imported from Japan and Korea,” he said.

“But we hope that [establishing] the brand name as well as quality standards will lead customers to change their minds.”

Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy department of industrial affairs deputy director Hort Pheng claimed yesterday it was the first plant domestically producing vehicles, adding it showed Cambodia was making increased use of heavy industry.

“We support car production in Cambodia because it shows it is the new face of technological development and income,” he said yesterday.

But South Korea’s Hyundai has also declared plans to produce cars in Cambodia through a joint venture in Koh Kong, with work due to have begun, but ministry officials said yesterday they were not aware whether the company had started production.

Meanwhile, Ministry of Commerce figures obtained yesterday showed the value of vehicle imports increased by 35 percent last year compared with 2009. Cambodia imported a total of 562,529 cars and motorbikes worth $252 million in 2010, the figures show.

Kong Putheara, director of the ministry’s Department of Trade Statistics and Information, said the increase came as Cambodians enjoyed increasing economic clout.

Talking Finance: The benefits of listing


via CAAI

Wednesday, 02 March 2011 15:00 Anthony Balliano

In the second of his columns explaning financial terms, Anthony Galliano, chief executive officer of Cambodian Investment Management, tackles initial public offerings.

Transforming from a privately held business to a publicly listed company offers substantial benefits. Rather than borrowing, which has to be repaid with interest, a company can gain access to cash and long-term capital.

The initial public offering of shares generates significant interest and greatly elevates the reputation and profile of the listing company. With a heightened public profile, business opportunities may increase and brand awareness improves.

The value of the company may increase as investors usually place a premium over the book value of the company.

The listing company can attract high-quality personnel, especially if it offers employee share-ownership schemes and options.

Employee productivity and pride in the company generally improves with share ownership.

A listed company may acquire another company by exchanging its stock rather than using or borrowing cash, reducing the debt burden on the company’s balance sheet.

For the business owner of a privately held company, listing offers the capacity to monetise a portion or all of their shares, which is usually the highest potential payout in realising the value of their company ownership.

However, in order to list a company there are stringent rules and regulations which is probably the reason only three firms have initially been designated to float by the Cambodian government. The Securities and Exchanges Commission of Cambodia, which is the government authority that oversees the sale of securities, has issued a prakas on corporate governance for listed companies.

In order to make a public offering, a company must submit an issuer application and disclosure document.

The disclosure document will include general information, risk factors, use of proceeds, operational plans, asset valuations, related party transactions, compensation, financial statements, and determination of offering price.

In order to ensure an independent validation, a due diligence report is required by both a professional accounting firm and a law firm, registered with the SECC. This may present issues for listing candidates as business owners have rarely disclosed such sensitive information in the past and are accustomed to privacy in these matters.

The company must have a board of directors of at least five of which one fifth is independent.

The capital of the company must be at least 5 billion riels, the company must have earned a profit of 500 million riels in the latest financial year and 1 billion for the latest three financial years.

A licensed securities market operator must approve securities pricing, a challenge in itself given the lack of depth in this area in the market presently.

The transformation to list involves great preparation, embracing corporate governance, much greater disclosure, and acting in the best interest of all shareholders. This will be progressive and will eventually significantly change how companies are owned and managed.In the second of his columns explaning financial terms, Anthony Galliano, chief executive officer of Cambodian Investment Management, tackles initial public offerings.

TRANSFORMING from a privately held business to a publicly listed company offers substantial benefits. Rather than borrowing, which has to be repaid with interest, a company can gain access to cash and long-term capital.

The initial public offering of shares generates significant interest and greatly elevates the reputation and profile of the listing company. With a heightened public profile, business opportunities may increase and brand awareness improves.

The value of the company may increase as investors usually place a premium over the book value of the company.

The listing company can attract high-quality personnel, especially if it offers employee share-ownership schemes and options.

Employee productivity and pride in the company generally improves with share ownership.

A listed company may acquire another company by exchanging its stock rather than using or borrowing cash, reducing the debt burden on the company’s balance sheet.

For the business owner of a privately held company, listing offers the capacity to monetise a portion or all of their shares, which is usually the highest potential payout in realising the value of their company ownership.

However, in order to list a company there are stringent rules and regulations which is probably the reason only three firms have initially been designated to float by the Cambodian government. The Securities and Exchanges Commission of Cambodia, which is the government authority that oversees the sale of securities, has issued a prakas on corporate governance for listed companies.

In order to make a public offering, a company must submit an issuer application and disclosure document.

The disclosure document will include general information, risk factors, use of proceeds, operational plans, asset valuations, related party transactions, compensation, financial statements, and determination of offering price.

In order to ensure an independent validation, a due diligence report is required by both a professional accounting firm and a law firm, registered with the SECC. This may present issues for listing candidates as business owners have rarely disclosed such sensitive information in the past and are accustomed to privacy in these matters.

The company must have a board of directors of at least five of which one fifth is independent.

The capital of the company must be at least 5 billion riels, the company must have earned a profit of 500 million riels in the latest financial year and 1 billion for the latest three financial years.

A licensed securities market operator must approve securities pricing, a challenge in itself given the lack of depth in this area in the market presently.

The transformation to list involves great preparation, embracing corporate governance, much greater disclosure, and acting in the best interest of all shareholders. This will be progressive and will eventually significantly change how companies are owned and managed.

Young friends open joint art exhibition


Chonn Ravy, above, poses with his paintings of old wooden homes in Battambang. Right, graphic artist Prak Ke focuses on pencil portraits of everyday workers in his display at Equinox bar and restaurant.

via CAAI

Wednesday, 02 March 2011 15:00 Roth Meas

Scenes from daily life and old wooden houses in Battambang are the featured subjects of two young artists who are exhibiting their work at Equinox bar and restaurant in Phnom Penh.

Both studied art at non-profit organisation Phare Ponleu Selpak (PPS), and now the young friends share a house together.

Prak Ke, 22, is a graphic designer for PPS who draws lively pencil portraits of workers around Battambang, such as street vendors, scavengers pulling carts and children.

He colours his drawings using powder and pens, bringing his subjects to life as they struggle to earn a living and raise their children.

Originally from Banteay Meanchey Province, Prak Ke is showing just eight works in the current exhibition, which runs until April 1.

“I want to show how people are working hard, and doing their job legally, without any accusations from other people. I think these paintings don’t just show the reality of our people working in Battambang but also all through Cambodia,” said Prak Ke.

The young artist has had just two exhibitions of his work, but has sold many drawings to tourists who visited the circus performances run by PPS in Battambang.

His fellow artist for the exhibition at Equinox is Chonn Ravy, 22, who lives in Rattanak Mondul district, Battambang. He began art studies at PPS in 2007 and is due to graduate after four years this year.

Old wooden houses in Battambang were the inspiration for his paintings on paper. He noticed that in the town’s Wat Ko and Kdol Doun Teav communes, many wooden houses were still standing from 100 years ago, some featuring decorative tiled roofs and eaves.

“I wanted to paint these houses because they reflect our own Cambodian style. These houses are old now, and people who have money will never build new houses in these old patterns, so I wanted to preserve their styles in my paintings,” said Chonn Ravy.

Their joint exhibition runs until April 1 at Equinox bar and restaurant, 3A Street 278, Phnom Penh.

US band returns to Khmer roots for tour of Cambodia


via CAAI

Wednesday, 02 March 2011 15:00 Chhim Sreyneang

A Khmer-influenced pop band from California’s San Jose have arrived for the first time in Cambodia to perform in aid of NGOs supporting traditional arts.

Laura Mam and The Like Me’s have already toured Siem Reap and will play at Parkway Studios on Thursday night to raise money for Cambodia Living Arts and the Anvaya Initiative, a network for returning Cambodians.

The four-women band plays classic Khmer hits from the 1960s alongside R&B songs and their own music, which have gained a cult following on YouTube.

“Cambodia has been in our dreams of touring since the band started,” says lead guitarist and singer Laura Mam. “We used to sit around the dinner table before practice and dream about going to Cambodia and playing for people who need new music the most.”

The other three members of the band are Cambodian-born Helena Hong and Filippinas Monique Coquilla and Loren Alonzo.

One of their big hits is a version of Sva Rom Monkiss, where mothers, sisters, aunties and cousins join in the dancing on the video.

“Our household was a normal Cambodian American home full of karaoke discs and high quality microphones. My father was a wedding singer and let me come on stage occasionally and sing with him,” says Laura. “Both my parents encouraged me to listen very carefully to the music to find the right tone, even though they never had any music training either. Playing by ear became the natural way of doing things.”

The Like Me’s tour is sponsored by Friends of Khmer Culture, which is supporting a sustainable tourism and conservation project at Banteay Chhmar Temple.

Laura Mam and The Like Me’s play at Parkway Studios, 133 Mao Tse Toung Boulevard, on Thursday, March 3 at 8pm. Tickets cost $8.

Cambodian move raises border tension


via CAAI

Published: 2/03/2011
Online news:

A Cambodian bid to take a group of foreign military attaches into part of the disputed 4.6 square kilometres around Preah Vihear temple has raised tension, again, on the border in Si Sa Ket province, a military source said on Wednesday.

The source said that Thai troops were put on a continuing alert in the 4.6 sq-km area, especially around the Preah Vihear temple, as a precaution, from Tuesday night.

The tension flared after Cambodia informed the Thai soldiers that it planned to bring the military attaches of 10 countries from Phnom Penh into the disputed area on Wednesday. The Thai side denied them permission.

Cambodia wanted the attaches to see important spots, including the damage to Wat Kaeo Sikha Kiri Savara and the area around it, which is in Thai terrority, the source said.

"There would be no problems if the attaches were taken specifically to see Preah Vihear temple, but we cannot allow them to go into the disputed area which has been occupied by Cambodian soldiers. We also regard the disputed area as ours," said the source.

The source said when Thailand took military attaches of 14 countries to the border in the middle of last month, they were taken to see only Mor E-daeng cliff and Phum Srol village on the Thai side of the border. They did not enter the disputed area.

The rejection caused Cambodia to postpone the visit until Thursday. Thai troops have been put on the alert. It was not known whether Cambodia would persist with the visit or cancel it, the source said.

The source said the Thai military attache in Phnom Penh had contacted the military attaches of other countries and been told they wanted the visit postponed for fear of sparking a new confrontation between Thailand and Cambodia.

Meanwhile, reports reaching the Thai military said Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen had ordered a change to the border forces, replacing the current soldiers with those of the Khmer Rouge.

The source said Khmer Rouge soldiers were viewed as intended more for combat than for promoting a good relationship.

Mission on Preah Vihear temple concludes successfully: UNESCO special envoy

via CAAI

March 02, 2011

Koichiro Matsuura, the special envoy of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said Tuesday afternoon his visit to Thailand and Cambodia on the issue of Preah Vihear temple come to an successful end.

"It's a very fruitful mission. I am very happy about that," Matsuura told reporters at Phnom Penh International Airport before leaving for Japan.

During a meeting with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday, Matsuura told the premier that UNESCO would send its experts to evaluate and restore Preah Vihear temple in the future.

Asking at the airport on Tuesday, Matsuura did not say when UNESCO will send its experts to evaluate the temple's damages caused by more than 400 mortar and artillery shells fired by Thai troops in the clashes on Feb. 4-7.

"We have something that UNESCO has to discuss further with Cambodian government," he said.

Matsuura, a former director-general of UNESCO and a former Chair of the World Heritage Committee, was named on Feb. 11 as the special envoy to mediate the issue of Preah Vihear temple following a deadly clash from Feb. 4-7 between Cambodian and Thai troops over the border disputed area next to the temple.

He visited Thailand on Feb. 25-26 before arriving Cambodia on Feb. 27-March 1.

Preah Vihear Temple was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2008.

The conflict has occurred just a week after the inscription due to Thai claim of the ownership of 1.8 square miles (4.6 sq km) of scrub next to the temple, since then periodic clashes have happened between the two nations' troops, resulted in the deaths of troops on both sides.

Source: Xinhua

Vietnamese concrete company invests in Cambodia

http://english.vovnews.vn/

via CAAI

02/03/2011

A joint venture named 7FTD between Vietnam, Belgium and Cambodia, inaugurated a factory producing concrete products to meet demand in Cambodia on March 1.

The joint venture was established between Vietnam’s Thu Duc Centrifugal Concrete Joint Stock Company, Belgian firm Flanders Concrete Corporation and Cambodia’s 7N.G company.

The 7FTD factory, covering an area of six hectares, is located at Viheasuor commune, in the Khsach Kandal district of Kandal province, 35 kilometres to the northeast of Phnom Penh city.

The US$6 million joint venture will focus on manufacturing concrete poles for electric cables, spun concrete piles, sewer pipes and precast concrete construction.

7FTD will be operated with modern technology with an annual turnover of US$8 million, said Chairman of the Management Council of the Thu Duc company Ha Ngoc Lan, adding that it was expected to generate 200 jobs.

VOVNews/VNA

Vietnamese, Cambodian NAs boost ties

http://english.vovnews.vn/

via CAAI

02/03/2011

The Vietnamese and Cambodian National Assemblies should strengthen coordination and create the most favourable legal framework for bilateral cooperation.

This statement was made by NA Vice Chairman Nguyen Duc Kien while receiving a delegation from the Cambodian NA’s Commission for Education, Youth and Sports, Cults, Religious Affairs, Culture and Tourism led by its chairman Mom Chim Huy in Hanoi on March 1.

Kien suggested the two NAs pay attention to popularisation and education work so that Vietnamese and Cambodian people, especially young generations, will continuously preserve and promote the fine traditional relationship between the two countries.

He expressed his wish that the two countries’ ministries, agencies and localities would strengthen exchanges and take specific measures to further their multifaceted cooperation, especially in economics, trade, investment, culture and education.

He also affirmed Vietnam’s consistent policy to attach importance to developing ties with Cambodia, for the interests of each country’s people and for peace, stability, cooperation and development in the region and the world at large.

The NA Vice Chairman acknowledged fine developments in the relationship between the two NAs in the past, saying that they helped boost the traditional friendship, neighbourly relations and comprehensive cooperation between the two nations.

He thanked the Cambodian NA’s active support for Vietnam as the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA) Chair during the 2009-2010 term and expressed his belief that the Cambodian NA would fulfill its role excellently as the AIPA Chair during the 2010-2011 term and successfully host the 32nd AIPA Assembly in the country this September.

For his part, Chairman Mom Chim Huy affirmed the Cambodian NA’s wish and determination to consolidate and further strengthen the exchange and cooperation between the commissions in particular and between the two legislative bodies of the two countries in general.

He stated that the bilateral cooperation between Cambodia and Vietnam has strongly developed in all fields, with two-way trade reaching US$1.8 billion in 2010. Vietnamese businesses have invested around US$2 billion in Cambodia.

On the same day, the Cambodian NA delegation held talks with a delegation from the Vietnamese NA’s Committee for Culture, Education, Youth and Children headed by its chairman Dao Trong Thi. The two sides agreed to strengthen cooperation and experience exchange in several fields.

During their stay in Vietnam from February 28 to March 5, the Cambodian delegation will work with leaders of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, the Ministry of Education and Training and the Government Committee on Religious Affairs. They also plan to pay a working visit to the northern province of Bac Ninh.

VNA/VOVNews

Government Officials Defend Need for NGO Law

Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Washington, DC Tuesday, 01 March 2011

via CAAI

Photo: VOA Khmer
Cambodian NGOs at a social forum.

“And only to put NGOs under the pressure of the government.”

Cambodian officials continue to defend the need for a law on NGOs, saying the sector has grown too large and has gone unregulated for too long.

Critics of the draft law on NGOs, which will regulate the registration and activities of thousands of non-governmental entities across the country, will hinder their work and open the possibility for extrajudicial abuse.

In a visit to Cambodia last week, the US’s top diplomat for democracy and human rights, Dan Baer, questioned the necessity of the law and whether it would be potentially harmful to the flourishing of an open society.

Koy Kuong, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the government was drafting the law “to prevent any extreme activities of NGOs.”

“This law does not have the purpose of restricting freedom for NGOs at all,” he said.

Cambodia has more than 3,000 non-governmental organizations, which bolster government functions like healthcare, education and development areas from human rights groups to agriculture.

Proponents of the draft law say it is now time to regulate the sector, including registration, action plans and other reports on activities. They point to the activities of the terrorist groups like Jemaah Islamiya in Cambodia in 2003 as reason for the law.

Nuth Sa An, secretary of state for the Ministry of Interior, who is in charge of the draft law, could not be reached for comment last week.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan said US concern over the law was understandable, but NGOs have become too used to operating without law or transparency.

Not everyone is convinced.

Ou Virak, head of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said he met with Baer on his visit and remains concerned Cambodia does not need a law specifically for NGOs.

Cambodia already has counter-terrorism laws, an anti-corruption law and a penal code to address wrongdoings of organizations, he said.

“So this law is for nothing but to complicate registration,” he said. “And only to put NGOs under the pressure of the government.”

Abuse of the law could “restrict freedom of people and space for democracy,” he said. “And it will strongly impact that democracy in Cambodia in the future.”

Concerns remain over how difficult the law will make organizing small community groups into associations, said Chhaya Hang, executive director of the Khmer Institute for Democracy.

On his visit, Baer said he would continue to monitor the progress of the law and was encouraged by ongoing dialogue between the government and the NGO sector.

In US Trip, Opposition Leader Seeks Change of US Position

Men Kimseng, VOA Khmer
Washington, DC Tuesday, 01 March 2011

via CAAI

Photo: Soeung Sophat, VOA Khmer
Exiled Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy talks to Cambodian-American supporters in Falls Church, near Washington, DC on February 24, 2011. He has been sentenced by the Cambodian courts to 12 years in prison and is on a two-day trip in Washington to garner support from the US government.

“We should not value stability under dictatorial rule because sooner or later there will be a burst of rage.”

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy made a routine trip to Washington last week, in an effort to bolster support from his US base ahead of elections in the near future.

However, with uprisings sweeping the Arab world, Sam Rainsy also used his visit to push US officials to revisit America’s relationship with Cambodia’s government.

Sam Rainsy, who remains in exile and faces 12 years in prison if he returns to Cambodia, met with US State Department officials, legislators and think tanks in Washington, urging them to pay close attention to Cambodia’s electoral process.



Opposition lawmakers say the ruling party is able to use its virtual monopoly on broadcast and print media to further its own political goals years ahead of elections, that the electoral process remains skewed for the ruling party, and that threats to opposition activists and other dissidents remain commonplace.

“If all four issues are not properly addressed, the upcoming elections are useless,” he told VOA Khmer in an interview. “There is no need to have election observers, because the result is already known now. This happens through fraud, faking names, eliminating voters, and cheating on voters list prepared by the ruling party. They have ensured their victory already.”

Sam Rainsy maintains that criminal charges against him are politically motivated and pursued by biased courts that will prevent him from leading his party in local elections in 2012 and national elections the following year.

Aside from election worries, Sam Rainsy said he also warned US officials of deep-seated human rights and economic issues that could lead to uprisings like those in the Middle East in recent weeks.

“Once the poor cannot benefit from development, and when the poor are getting poorer and poorer, there will be uprisings, as in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya,” he said. “Cambodia is the same.”

The US should rethink its policy of “stability,” he said, “and whether that stability comes should be in a democratic country or a dictatorial one.”

“We should not value stability under dictatorial rule because sooner or later there will be a burst of rage,” he said.

Cambodian Court Rejects Opposition Leader's Final Appeal

Robert Carmichael, VOA
Phnom Penh Tuesday, 01 March 2011

via CAAI

Photo: Reuters
Sam Rainsy, leader of Cambodia's opposition Sam Rainsy Party, speaks during a campaign rally in Kandal province, Cambodia, July 11, 2008.

"That is a big mistake, the donors, especially the Western countries, who have provided so much assistance to Cambodia, should look into the issue of Sam Rainsy more seriously.”

Cambodia’s highest court on Tuesday upheld a two-year jail term imposed on the exiled leader of the opposition, Sam Rainsy. The verdict came after he uprooted border markers on the country’s boundary with Vietnam more than a year ago, claiming Cambodian farmers were losing land to their more powerful neighbor.



Judges at the Supreme Court said Tuesday that opposition leader Sam Rainsy must serve the two-year sentence that was handed down last year by a lower court.

Sam Rainsy, who lives in self-imposed exile in France, was convicted of racial incitement and damaging public property in the October 2009 incident on the border with neighboring Vietnam.

Senior members of the Sam Rainsy Party, or SRP, said on Tuesday the verdict had come as little surprise. One of them, veteran SRP legislator Son Chhay, says the courts are there to do the bidding of the ruling party.

"We all predicted the Supreme Court will maintain the verdict to send Sam Rainsy to two years in prison," he says. "And we have no hope that the judicial system in Cambodia or the court itself will be able to make any reform to gain some confidence from the public in any near future."

The ruling party’s motive, says Son Chhay, is to ensure that Sam Rainsy is unable to take part in the next election, which is scheduled for 2013.

As matters stand with Tuesday’s ruling, there is little chance that Sam Rainsy can now participate, unless, that is, a political compromise can be reached.

Son Chhay says the international community, which has invested billions of dollars in Cambodia’s political stability, has failed to grasp the seriousness of the situation.

“They seem to be being fooled that the case of Sam Rainsy is an individual case, that it isn’t reflecting the whole need for maintaining the democratic environment in the country," he says. "That is a big mistake, the donors, especially the Western countries, who have provided so much assistance to Cambodia, should look into the issue of Sam Rainsy more seriously.”

During his recent trip to Phnom Penh, the United Nations human rights envoy Surya Subedi said public figures should become more tolerant and should stop using the courts against their critics.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy faces more legal problems.

Last year, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison after he displayed a map at a press conference that the government claimed misrepresented the border between Vietnam and Cambodia.

At the time, the government said that his actions amounted to disinformation and the falsifying of public documents.

The issue of the country’s border with Vietnam is a sensitive one for the government. Prime Minister Hun Sen maintains close relations with Hanoi, and many Cambodians are distrustful of their more powerful neighbor.

Last week, Sam Rainsy traveled to Washington to rally support from the U.S. government and human rights groups. During the trip, he sat down with VOA's Kate Woodsome, to talk about his legal troubles and the future of the opposition.

Husband Remembers Fatal Night on Diamond Bridge

Pich Samnang, VOA Khmer
Kampong Speu, Cambodia Tuesday, 01 March 2011

via CAAI

Photo: AP
Cambodia University students lay down flowers during a memorial service near a bridge where festival goers were killed Monday in a stampede in Phnom Penh, Nov. 25, 2010.

“I am regretful that I could never afford to treat her to a big meal in a restaurant.”

Like other families of stampede victims on Diamond Bridge, Leung Porn's family decided to hold the 100-day ceremony last weekend at a Buddhist clergyman's suggestion.

Leung Porn's wife, Tor Sophal, was one of the 353 victims killed in the stampede on the bridge during last year’s water festival.

Leung Porn, who is 54 and now the single father of three children, said the ceremony will help his wife rest in peace.

“The ceremony is to stop her soul from wandering and help her reincarnate,” he said in an interview. “I pray for her to be reborn in a better life, one not as miserable as this one.”

Leung Porn is a farmer and motorcycle taxi driver from a small town in Kampong Speu province, Chbar Mon. His wife had been a commune council member and the main breadwinner of an extended family of 10 people.

“I wonder where she will be reborn,” Leung Porn said. “I still want to know in what direction, what province and what village she will be reincarnated.” He began to cry. “I love my wife so much,” he said.

Leung Porn was with his wife on the bridge on the night of Nov. 22, 2010. They had decided to walk along the bridge at the end of the Water Festival, along with many others. They found themselves trapped amid thousands of people, all sandwiched onto the small platform, pushing from two directions and unable to move either way. The crush of bodies began suffocating some, and when panic ensued, many where crushed to death.

Leung Porn said he survived by maneuvering his body to keep his chest from being crushed. He was separated from Tor Sophal and in the crush of bodies was helpless to save her.

“I was hopeless for my wife at the time, because I myself was nearly half dead,” he said. “When I saw my wife lying dead, I was confused and speechless.”

Tor Sophal’s ashes now sit on a shelf in the house, for the whole family to pray to. In the aftermath of tragedy, they received about $12,000 from the government and other donors. Some of that was spent on her funeral and subsequent ceremonies. The rest remains in savings.

“Even though you gave me gold too heavy to carry, I didn’t need it,” he said, looking at his teenage son, whose head was shaved in mourning. “I would have taken my wife back instead.”

Leung Porn said he will no longer allow any of his family members to go to Diamond Island, or even to the Water Festival, for fear of another disaster.

“I’ve advised my children and grandchildren not to go there,” he said. “If they want to celebrate the event, I tell them to celebrate at home with the family. I’m afraid, and I swear I’ll never go again.”

Perhaps, he said, he would be willing to visit a memorial stupa for the dead if it is built near the bridge. And he wants the authorities to ensure such a tragedy doesn’t happen again.

For now, 100 days later, he remembers his wife and is sorry he had not done more for her when she was alive.

“I am regretful that I could never afford to treat her to a big meal in a restaurant,” he said.

Bird flu scare puts officials on high alert


via CAAI

Published: 2/03/2011
Newspaper section: News

Health authorities are on high alert for bird flu on the Thai-Cambodian border near Aranyaprathet after two Cambodians were reported to have died from the virus.

The two confirmed cases - a 21-year-old mother and an 11-month-old son - were sent to Mongkolburi Hospital in Cambodia's Banteay Meanchey province, opposite Sa Kaeo province.

An investigation found the mother slaughtered poultry to eat and developed flu-like symptoms after consuming the H5N1-infected chicken, Public Health Ministry permanent secretary Paijit Warachit said.

The mother died on Feb 13 and the son died on Feb 15, he said.

"The report of human deaths in the neighbouring country is a sign that bird flu can return to harm us without surveillance," Mr Paijit said.

He said Thai epidemiologists were closely monitoring the outbreak along the border.

The ministry had so far received no reports of sick and dead poultry in surrounding areas and in Sa Kaeo province close to the outbreak.

Health and livestock officials have stepped up operations to control trade of eggs and poultry between Cambodia and Thailand.

Wiboon Srimankongtham, chief of the livestock quarantine unit in Sa Kaeo, said officials seized more than 2,500 eggs and five chickens a Cambodian villager had smuggled in from Poi Pet yesterday morning. The eggs and chicken would be buried to prevent possible spread of the bird flu virus.

The World Health Organisation reported on Monday bird flu had claimed three lives in Cambodia since January.

A total of 310 deaths and 525 cases were confirmed in 15 countries during a series of bird flu outbreaks from 2004-2006.

Thailand has had no reports of bird flu cases in humans since July 2006.

Cambodia: NGOs concerned for the fate of asylum seekers

http://www.reliefweb.int/

via CAAI

Source: Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS)
Date: 01 Mar 2011

After the closure of the centre for Montagnard asylum seekers, NGOs worry about the fate of new arrivals, Phnom Penh, Cambodia (AFP)

Human Rights Watch expressed concerns that after the refugee centre closes, the Cambodian government will screen future Montagnard asylum seekers under a procedure that does not meet international standards.

Phnom Penh, 28 February 2011– Following the closure of the centre managed by the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) on 15 February, human rights organisations have called on the Cambodian government to ensure it offers protection to asylum seekers.

Seventy Montagnards, part of ethnic minority tribes from Vietnam's Central Highlands, had been housed at the facility in Phnom Penh. Late last year, the government ordered UNHCR to close the centre by 1 January, saying that the Montagnards would either need to be resettled in third countries or returned to Vietnam. This deadline was later extended to 15 February.

According to UNHCR, 55 Montagnards had been resettled in Canada and the US before the deadline, while a further 10 are currently awaiting settlement. The applications for the remaining 10 were unsuccessful and are to be sent back to Vietnam.

The director of Jesuit Refugee Service, Denise Coghlan, described the decision to close the centre as a positive step; she said it was an imperfect set-up that essentially saw the asylum seekers confined to the centre, living in limbo as their refugee statuses remained up in the air.

"Some people were in a closed site for six years, so I think it's very good that it's now finished," Sr Coghlan said.

Coghlan was among the most vocal critics when Cambodia chose to deport the Uighurs in late 2009. Now, she said, she's hopeful the government will give due process to future asylum seekers.

"Like most laws, something's written down and we have to see how it's implemented. I hope it will be implemented in a humane way and according to the principle and spirit of the UN conventions, she said.

Human Rights Watch concerned

Human Rights Watch expressed concerns that after the refugee centre closes, the Cambodian government will screen future Montagnard asylum seekers under a procedure that does not meet international standards.

The Human Rights Watch statement criticised the sub-decree passed by the Cambodian government in December 2009 as it fails to incorporate the UN Refugee Convention's definition of what constitutes a refugee and further lacks provisions to fulfil the country's other obligations as a signatory state.

With insufficient procedural protections in place to prevent unlawful forced returns, the sub-decree provides Cambodian authorities great leeway to reject and expel asylum seekers.

Human Rights Watch continues to receive credible reports of persecution of Montagnards in Vietnam, where more than 300 have been imprisoned since 2001 for peaceful expression of their religious or political views, or for trying to seek asylum in Cambodia.

____________________________

With the exception of public UN sources, reproduction or redistribution of the above text, in whole, part or in any form, requires the prior consent of the original source. The opinions expressed in the documents carried by this site are those of the authors and are not necessarily shared by UN OCHA or ReliefWeb.

Lead Poisoning of a Child Associated With Use of a Cambodian Amulet—New York City, 2009

http://jama.ama-assn.org/

via CAAI

MMWR. 2011;60:69-71
Lead poisoning in children is a preventable public health problem that can adversely affect the developing nervous system and result in learning and behavior problems. The most common source of exposure for lead-poisoned children aged <6 years in the United States is lead-based paint. However, nonpaint sources have been identified increasingly as the cause of lead poisoning, particularly in immigrant communities. This report describes a case of lead poisoning in a child aged 1 year that was investigated by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene's (NYC DOHMH) Lead Poisoning Prevention Program in 2009. The likely source of exposure was an amulet made in Cambodia with leaded beads that was worn by the child. Health-care providers and public health workers should consider traditional customs when seeking sources of lead exposure in Southeast Asian populations. Health-care providers should ask parents about their use of amulets, especially those in Southeast Asian families and those with children found to have elevated blood lead levels (BLLs). Educational efforts are needed to inform Southeast Asian immigrants that amulets can be a source of lead poisoning.

Restrictions in the use of lead in paint and gasoline have reduced the amount of environmental lead, resulting in a 98% decline in the number of children with BLLs ≥10 μg/dL from 1976 to 2004. The geometric mean BLL of children aged 1-5 years declined from 14.9 μg/dL in the late 1970s to 1.9 μg/dL in 2004.1,2 Despite this improvement, some children remain at greater risk for lead poisoning: black children, children aged 1-5 years (especially children aged 1-2 years because of hand-to-mouth activity typical for this age group), children living in older deteriorated housing, and children living in poverty.2 In New York City, Asian children also have been noted to be at risk for lead poisoning.3

The most common source of lead poisoning for young children is lead-based paint; however, nonpaint sources of lead are being identified increasingly in lead poisoning cases.4 Children with immigrant backgrounds might be at increased risk through exposure to lead-containing products from their family's country of origin. In New York City in 2007, among children with BLLs ≥15 μg/dL, 38% of foreign-born children did not have a lead paint hazard in the home compared with 21% of U.S.-born children (p<0.05).3 Nonpaint lead risk factors include recent travel to a foreign country and use of imported products such as spices, food, candy, cosmetics, health remedies, ceramics or pottery, and jewelry.

Next SectionCase ReportIn March 2009, routine lead testing of a healthy, nonanemic boy aged 1 year who was born in the United States to Cambodian-born parents showed an elevated BLL of 10 μg/dL. Because the toddler shared a household with a cousin who had lead poisoning, he also had been tested at age 6 months, and was found to have a BLL of 1 μg/dL at that time. During the first home interview and inspection after the elevated BLL, the child's home and routine activities were evaluated by a risk assessor certified by the Environmental Protection Agency. The boy's father denied use of imported products, and no paint or nonpaint lead sources were identified. Out of 29 X-ray fluorescence (XRF) readings of painted areas obtained during the inspection, none were above U.S. Housing and Urban Development guidelines of 1 mg/cm2 of lead.5

Three months later, the child's BLL increased to 20 μg/dL. In a telephone interview before a second home inspection, the boy's father again denied that the child wore jewelry or charms, but when questioned more closely, he said that the toddler wore an amulet or “something to protect him.” The amulet, acquired by the boy's mother in a rural Cambodian market, was a knotted string onto which gray metallic beads had been molded. The father reported that the boy had worn the amulet around his neck since age 3 months and had been observed mouthing it.

The second home inspection revealed one positive XRF reading of 2.2 mg/cm2 on an interior window sill and several potential nonpaint lead sources: two imported spices, imported rice, and the amulet. All four nonpaint samples were sent to a laboratory for acid-digestion testing. The lead contents of the food items were below the limits of detection used, which were 0.94 mg/kg and 0.95 mg/kg for the spices and 0.49 mg/kg for the rice. The amulet's metal beads had a total lead content of 450,000 mg/kg (45%).

Within 8 days of the amulet being removed from the home, the child's BLL had decreased from 20 μg/dL to 14 μg/dL. Six weeks after the amulet was removed, and 2 days after the lead paint violation was reported as abated, the child's BLL was 10 μg/dL. Five months after the amulet was removed, the boy's BLL was down to 5 μg/dL. Although other factors might have contributed to the child's overall lead burden, the most likely source identified was the amulet, based on its high lead content, statements that the child had been observed mouthing it, and the rapid decrease in the child's BLL after its removal.

The toddler's cousin, aged 6 years, who was living in the same home, had lead poisoning diagnosed in September 2008. His BLL had been 17 μg/dL. Fifty-eight violations for lead had been repaired in the home, and during the next 8 months the boy had BLLs of 11-15 μg/dL. He also had worn a Cambodian amulet, and 3 months after he stopped wearing his amulet, his BLL was 7 μg/dL. The toddler's sister, aged 10 years, was tested and had a BLL of 4 μg/dL. Although she also wore an amulet, she presumably was old enough not to mouth it.

Previous SectionNext SectionReported by:M Mann, MD, MN Rublowska, JE Ehrlich, MD, Lead Poisoning Prevention Program, New York City Dept of Health and Mental Hygiene, New York. MS Sucosky, MPH, CM Kennedy, DrPH, Healthy Homes and Lead Poisoning Prevention Br, Div of Environmental Hazards and Health Effects, National Center for Environmental Health, CDC.

Previous Section CDC Editorial Note:Wearing amulets is common among Cambodians and other ethnic groups in Southeast Asia, including Vietnamese, Hmong, and Lao populations. Typically, infants and toddlers wear these “protection strings” around their necks, wrists, or waists.6 The amulets usually are made of black or white string with several knots, metal beads, or both. The knots and beads are believed by some to be infused with protective powers. In this case, the mother of the toddler reported that on her most recent trip to Cambodia, she had three amulets custom-made (“cooked in a pot”) for the children in her family. Anecdotal information suggests that lead bullets sometimes are melted to make the beads for such amulets.

This case identified a lead risk factor not previously recognized for the Southeast Asian community. In addition, this case highlights the importance of blood lead testing in children of immigrants because of the increased risk for exposure to lead-containing foreign products. CDC recommends blood lead testing for internationally adopted and refugee children.* NYC DOHMH recommends testing all children with recent travel to foreign countries.

This case also adds to the medical literature of nonpaint lead sources as causes of lead poisoning. Some incidents of lead poisoning in children from atypical sources have been documented previously,4,7 and two cases of jewelry-associated lead poisonings in children have been reported recently. In 2004, a boy aged 4 years from Oregon had a BLL of 123 μg/dL after ingesting a necklace with a 38.8% lead content that had come from a vending machine.8 In 2006, another boy aged 4 years from Minnesota died from acute lead poisoning after ingesting a heart-shaped metallic charm containing 99.1% lead.9 These two cases led to the recall of 150 million pieces of imported metallic toy jewelry sold in vending machines and a voluntary recall of 300,000 heart-shaped charm bracelets, respectively. These cases also call attention to ingestion of jewelry as a mechanism for lead poisoning.

Educational efforts are needed to inform Southeast Asian immigrants that amulets can be sources of lead poisoning for children. Health-care providers and public health workers should ask about this custom when seeking a source of exposure in Southeast Asians with elevated BLLs. Targeted educational efforts in Southeast Asian communities also should be considered. This case also underscores the importance of being aware of different cultural practices, such as wearing amulets, and highlights the need to assess and reassess the same risk factors and rephrasing questions using different words when communicating with immigrant families.

What is already known on this topic?Although the most common source of lead poisoning for young children is lead-based paint, nonpaint sources of lead are being identified increasingly in lead poisoning cases, particularly in immigrant communities.

What is added by this report?

This report describes a case of pediatric lead poisoning that likely resulted from wearing an amulet made in Cambodia with leaded beads, a newly identified lead risk factor for the Southeast Asian community.

What are the implications for public health practice?

Educational efforts are needed to inform Southeast Asian immigrants that amulets can be a potential source of lead poisoning. Health-care providers should ask parents about use of amulets, especially Southeast Asian families and those with children found to have elevated blood lead levels.

In San Jose, Talk of Atrocity Reparations

Pin Sisovann, VOA Khmer
San Jose, California Tuesday, 01 March 2011

via CAAI

Photo: AP
A portrait displayed at Tuol Sleng prison, depicting how the prisoners were tortured and killed.

“I want real and clear justice, not a fake one, like that of a show trial."

Sophany Bay had her last look at her daughter’s corpse some 35 years ago. Her child died under the Khmer Rouge and was being taken away for burial in a shallow grave in Takeo province.

Now an American, Sophany Bay is filing as a complainant in the upcoming Khmer Rouge tribunal for four regime leaders. She says she wants to have a monument erected, one where she can keep a photograph of her youngest daughter and where she might engrave the names of her two other children lost to the regime.



Sophany Bay is among 41 Cambodians in the US who are filing as civil parties with the UN-backed court, which expects to hold a trial in Phnom Penh later this year for leaders Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan, Ieng Sary and Ieng Thirith.

She met with some 50 other Cambodian-Americans in San Jose, Calif., this weekend to discuss possible reparations the court might undertake to help assuage the trauma of the Khmer Rouge period.

“My filing the complaint to the Khmer Rouge tribunal is for nothing but justice,” she told VOA Khmer in an interview. “I want real and clear justice, not a fake one, like that of a show trial. I want justice for my three children, who died unfairly.”

Nou Leakhena, executive director of the Applied Social Research Institute, who helped organize Saturday’s meeting, said the goal is to “seek a common understanding from victims before we present a [reparation] request to the court.”

“If the court does not recognize what they ask for, we will still go ahead with what the survivors want because we see this as a crucial step for their mental healing,” she said.

Nou Leakhena is organizing a series of similar meetings in collaboration with the Center for Justice and Accountability. The forums are a way to update Khmer Rouge survivors on the progress of the tribunal as well as to find an agreement on reparations.

“We are hoping to really gather as much information as we can,” said Andrea Evans, the center’s legal director. “Then we’re going to go to other communities around the United States also and really gather as much as we can so that when we go to court we are in a better position to advocate for what the communities want from here.”

At Saturday’s meeting, at a San Jose pagoda, some who gathered brought photographs of loved ones who perished under the Khmer Rouge. For a few, the painful memories of that time remain fresh, and they burst into tears as they remembered the lost.

Police raid meth lab


Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Police Lt Col Yim Socheath looks over paraphernalia used in the production of narcotics that was seized at Nam Trea Restaurant and Guesthouse in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district today.

via CAAI

Tuesday, 01 March 2011 19:57 Buth Reaksmey Kongkea

Phnom Penh Municipal Police arrested three people at a suspected drug-producing site in the capital’s Meanchey district last night, while also seizing about six kilograms of methamphetamine and ketamine in the raid.

Deputy Police Chief Pen Rath said the suspects were a male and female teenager, as well as a 51-year-old Cambodian-American male who owns a restaurant and guesthouse in Meanchey district.

In addition to the seized narcotics, he said nearly 1,400 bottles of pre-cursor chemicals, such as sulfuric acid, were also confiscated.

“We were able to crack down on this place and arrest these people because of reports from local residents,” said Pen Rath.

“[The suspects] are still being questioned and interrogated at our municipal police office in order to find out those who are behind or involved with them.”

The suspects are expected to be charged in municipal court tomorrow, he added.

According to Pen Rath, the 51-year-old suspect served a four-month jail term in 2010 on drug trafficking charges.

He is the owner of Nam Trea Restaurant and Guesthouse and the suspected owner of the drug-producing facility that was raided last night in Meanchey district’s Veal Sbov commune.

“[He] is a big drug trafficker,” said Pen Rath.

“He has been involved with drug trafficking activities for many years in Cambodia.”

Two vehicles and a pistol were also confiscated in the raid, he said.

For several weeks, the municipal police have conducted a series of drug raids, arresting and charging users, traffickers and manufacturers in the process.

During the first two months of 2011, Pen Rath said a total of 258 people had been arrested and charged on drug-related offences.

Baby sellers spark alert


via CAAI

Tuesday, 01 March 2011 21:06 James O'Toole and Mom Kunthear

An illegal baby selling ring that was broken up in Thailand last week amid allegations of rape and human trafficking may also be operating in Cambodia, prompting rights groups to urge an immediate investigation in the Kingdom.

Thai police arrested several people last week who are accused of being involved in a Taiwanese-run business in which women were offered up as surrogate mothers for wealthy couples in Taiwan and elsewhere.

Accounts from 14 Vietnamese women rescued from the firm in Bangkok indicated that they had been trafficked from Vietnam, and that the organisation is also operating in Cambodia, the Bangkok Post reported.

A message on what is apparently the firm’s website, meanwhile, says it has “reception offices in Bangkok, Thailand and Phnom Penh, Cambodia” and lists a pair of local phone numbers.

Thai Minister of Public Health Jurin Laksanavisit told reporters in Bangkok that the business was “illegal and inhuman” and said some victims had shown signs of rape.

Thai authorities, he added, are pursuing human trafficking and illegal detention charges in a case observers called a new and horrifying form of cross-border crime.

“When I first heard about this, I was frankly stunned,” said Phil Robertson, deputy director of the Asia division for Human Rights Watch.

“Clearly what we have is something that’s so beyond the pale that people haven’t even thought about it, but here it is in front of us.”

A Thai official told the BBC that staff from the company, known as Baby 101, had seized the women’s passports and confined them at the firm’s headquarters upon their arrival in Bangkok.

On what appears to be the firm’s website, the cost for the complete surrogacy process is listed at US$32,000.

“It is needless to take the risk for adoption,” reads the website, which says the surrogacy process is based on “eugenic” principles.

“We can grant you a splendid life especially when you embrace your blood relationship baby.”

Police in Thailand reportedly made the arrests after several of the victims sent an email to the Vietnamese Embassy in Bangkok pleading for assistance.

The victims are set to return home to Vietnam, though police say they are still investigating to see whether more women are being held elsewhere.

On the website, photos of 40 different women available for surrogacy appear along with numbered codes.

The whereabouts of the majority of these women are not yet clear.

Cambodian officials contacted today said they were unfamiliar with the case and did not know whether investigations would be pursued here.

Bith Kimhong, director of the Interior Ministry’s anti-human trafficking department, said today that he was unaware of the matter, as did Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong.

Keo Thea, director of the municipal anti-trafficking and juvenile protection bureau, said it was “unbelievable that something like that really happened”.

“If you have more information about this case in Cambodia, please let me know,” he said.

Repeated calls to Baby 101’s Cambodian phone numbers were not answered today. The firm’s website did not list a local address.

Robertson said members of the alleged trafficking ring could still be at large both in Cambodia and elsewhere, urging a coordinated investigation.

“Thailand and Cambodia and Vietnam and Taiwan need to really work very closely together and try to get to the bottom of this entire enterprise,” he said. “These people have to be held accountable.”